How do you find “comps” for your novel?

I’ve been searching and searching for recent comps to my novel, Hope.  Vinegar Hill, by A. Manette Ansay, and Sentence of Marriage,  by Shayne Parkinson are close. They are relatively contemporary (although outside of the recommended limit), and they both show how the surrounding culture can pressure a woman into accepting what should be unacceptable.

But for the most part, a good deal of the women’s fiction I find is in a contemporary setting, and that just won’t work: Hope lives in a totally different world. And I know there are classics out there with dystopian religious influences, but darned if I can find them.

Then the other day I stumbled on The Color Purple. Yeah, I know, it’s been around awhile. But the synopses I read spoke to me, and I remember seeing the movie years ago, so I got the book and read it.

And the whole time I’m reading, I’m thinking, This book is so much like Hope! No, I don’t pretend to be on the same level as Alice Walker. I knew the story was similar to mine because it is a rural setting, takes place at about the same time as Hope, and is about a woman in an abusive relationship that she can’t escape.

But as I’m reading, I realize that Celie is Hope, Shug is Hattie, Mister is Absalom, Sophia is Emma. each matchup of characters are ones who share the same role, right down to Shug and Hattie’s definition of God.

I’m so excited! I know—I still need to find a more contemporary comp. But for now I’m thinking The Color Purple set in an Adirondack Mountain, Anglo community pretty much describes Hope’s world.

Fellow writers, how do you find comparables for your WIP?

P.S. If anyone has a good example of a novel that shows the negative influence of religion, I’d love to hear about it.

2 thoughts on “How do you find “comps” for your novel?

  1. Rather than try to explain, here is an excerpt from Michelle Hauk’s blog, “It’s In The Details”

    “[Comp titles] are important because they help us [agents] envision positioning on bookshelves and the target audience, which helps us strategize our own submission lists…A comp should tell the agent as concisely as possible what familiar notes to expect from your novel.”

    I’ve also read that it’s important to find comps that are recent (within 2-3 yrs) to show the agent that you are “up on” what’s being published in your genre.


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